Inside Iowa State
July 23, 1999
Campus attracts political hopefulsby Steve Sullivan
Newspapers across the country ran the photo: potential presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole, kicking up her heels on the Iowa State campus with her Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters.
Publicity is just one reason presidential hopefuls love visiting college campuses. In addition to Dole, Oval Office aspirants Bill Bradley and Lamar Alexander have visited the ISU campus this campaign season.
"They have an attentive audience, an educated audience who are actually going to participate in the political process," said Steffen Schmidt, political science professor. "For them, a campus is a very fruitful place. They are quite certain that the people with whom they make contact are going to vote."
Universities also are known for having some of the best facilities for meetings and other events, added Schmidt. All the evidence to support that claim will be on display Aug. 14 when the Republican Straw Poll is held at the Iowa State Center. CNN plans to set up in the Memorial Union in the days prior to the poll and broadcast its Inside Politics show.
Dole and Bush are using the straw poll as an opportunity to plan events in the ISU Greek community.
"The Greek community is very well-organized and usually attracts the student leaders -- the movers and shakers, the types of people politicians are looking for," said Brian Tenclinger, coordinator of Greek affairs. "Candidates often already have an affiliation with the Greek community. Elizabeth Dole, for example, was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority and she knows there are 92 women on campus who are her sorority sisters and who will respond to her."
David Kochel knows full well the benefits a campus presence has for candidates. Kochel, who earned a political science degree from ISU in 1992, is the Iowa campaign manager for Alexander. In 1988, he was the campus campaign manager for Bob Dole, who garnered 800 student votes in Ames precincts during the Iowa caucuses.
"That's a lot for the Iowa caucuses," Kochel said. "Campuses have a tremendous opportunity for impact. Universities are a great place because they can bring a lot of energy into a campaign. Young people provide energy that a campaign needs, especially for volunteer work."
Iowa State holds special qualities for candidates, he added.
"Lots of students come from small rural communities, which makes the character of ISU special for candidates," Kochel said. "It is uniquely attuned to rural and small community messages. Its proximity to Des Moines also is important because candidates look to garner attention from the media, and ISU is well situated for that." While candidates may exploit the perks of a campus, a campus can exploit the presence of candidates, too. For example, Schmidt has offered extra credit to students who attend a candidate's campus events.
"Educationally, it is a very attractive thing," Schmidt said. "Visiting candidates provide a living laboratory on the political process for students. It's like taking a field trip, but the field research comes to you."
In 1988, the ISU Lectures Program created the Presidential Caucus Series, a vehicle that provides facilities and publicity for candidates visiting campus.
"The series ensures students have the opportunity to hear all perspectives as the presidential caucuses approach," said Pat Miller, lectures program coordinator.
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